Friday, August 13, 2010

In Memory Of...

Those of you that know me through the Pagan community also know that yesterday Isaac Bonewits passed away.  Isaac was one of the most important figures in the modern Pagan community - teacher, leader, musician, general troublemaker (in the best possible way).

I'm not going to list Isaacs many accomplishments here, frankly his own webpage does a much better job of that than I ever could. For those of you that are interested, here's a link to his page

What I AM going to do is write a little bit about the man I knew. I said it yesterday on FB, but it bears repeating, Isaac was a hell of a guy.

The first time I ever met him was at the first Wellspring Gathering in 1991. My girlfriend Kathleen had talked me into coming along with her and her boyfriend Bill, because she didn't want to be the only non-pagan girl there. It sounded like a fun time, and I'd always had an interest in paganism, so I went.

I don't remember who it was that introduced me to him, but I do remember that he reminded me of a slightly scruffy, mildly daft college professor - you know, the kind who's prone to going off on tangents that have nothing to do with the topic at hand but are actually far more interesting than the lesson itself. In some ways that first impression of him was dead on, but Isaac had a razor sharp intellect, and a wicked sense of humor. Wicked enough to forgive him his love of bad puns.

Somehow Kathleen and I got roped into tending one of the directional fires for the main ritual (I think I may have volunteered us). Turned out we were tending the fire in the North, directly behind where the alter and Isaac were. Being the urban chicks we were, we promptly piled too much fuel on it and nearly put it out in the middle of the ritual. I remember the 2 of us on our knees, blowing on the fire to try and get it to flare back up. We must have been making a little to much noise with all the huffing and puffing, because I heard someone going PSSST! PSST!. I looked up, and Isaac was looking over his shoulder, laughing at us, and holding out a bottle of oil. We got the fire stoked back up, and periodically Isaac would look back over at us and start laughing again.

The ritual itself, and the whole weekend would have a profound impact on my life that continues to this day. As I told Isaac at the time, I went away a nice Catholic girl from the suburbs and came back a Druid. After that weekend, I became an active member of ADF, a part of Green Man Grove, and eventually Bard for that grove.  Isaac and his family were living in NJ at the time, and since Green Man Grove was based in Jersey City, we were fortunate enough to have him come to grove functions. Isaac and Debs son Arthur and my son John were both toddlers at the time, and I remember enjoying watching them play together. Isaac took such pleasure from Arthur, it was really lovely to see.

Isaac asked me to take over running ADF's regalia department, which I did for 2 years. It's not as big a deal as it might sound, at that time ADF regalia consisted of some pins and pendants, copies of Isaacs book Real Magick, a few back issues of Druids Progress (ADF's Newsletter/magazine/journal), and for some unknown reason, 12 copies of a book on Day Lilies. But I was honored that he asked me.

One of the things that sticks out most in my memories of him is the way he would always make time for people who needed his help or support. When my first husband and I split up, Isaac was very supportive and caring, and checked on me by phone to make sure that I was doing OK. Everyone around me (with a few exceptions) assumed that I was doing fine, but Isaac took the time to make sure that I was ok, and there were more than a few times that he let me cry on his shoulder. When my last marriage fell apart and I was devestated, Isaac took the time to make contact through FB, and give me some emotional support. We hadn't seen each other in many years, but he still cared enough to let me know that he was there, and I'll never forget that.

His kindness wasn't limited to just people in his circle. I was part of a coven on Long Island, and one of our coven sisters was going through a nasty divorce and a VERY nasty custody battle over her son. Her husband, who was a practicing pagan and had been to ritual at my home on several occasions, had dragged the word "Witch" into the custody battle. His lawyer was accusing her of sacrificing animals, devil worship, orgies, all the usual slander that's associated with the accusation of being a witch. He was trying to have her declared an unfit mother and take sole custody of the baby. Isaac had never met my coven sister, but I asked him to contact her, and he got in touch with her and offered to come to court and give testimony as to what Wicca and Paganism are, and what they are NOT. The case ended with a joint custody decision, in large part because of Isaacs testimony, and his efforts to educate the court on Pagan spirituality.

Even though it's been a long time since I've seen Isaac, I'll miss him. I'll miss his songs, his jokes about dirgelike pagan chants, his occasional copping a feel (OK, his frequent copping a feel, this was Isaac after all), his bad puns, and the opportunity to tease him about his total lack of a backside. I'll miss the books he would have written, the rituals he would have led, the songs he would have sung.

I'll miss the man who inspired me to explore my spirituality, who encouraged my creativity and who never failed to show kindness and support when it was needed.

As I said, a hell of a guy.

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